“I really cannot accept this!” Her face was puce and her earlobes turned a shade of blue resembling an autumn sky heavy with rain. I notice things like that.
“You have defaced this book. How could you?”
“Sorry, how do you mean, defaced it?”
“Well, you’ve bent corners of the pages here, here . . . and here. In fact throughout the entire book!”
“But how is that defacing it?”
“And, and . . .” her breathing was now stertorous and I began to be concerned for her physical well-being, “you’ve written in the margins! Scrawled all over it and, and, and drawings and what-not. It’s ruined!”
“Oh, come on, hardly all over it, I haven’t written on every page. Only the ones that interest me. Bronowski has some brilliant ideas which should be remembered. Don’t you think?”
“But the rules expressly forbid writing in the books we lend you. They don’t belong to you.”
“I know that. But the words and ideas do, once I’ve read them.”
She looked at me sideways as if I was a specimen. In the ensuing silence, her giant bosom heaved while I stared at the top of my shoes which had begun to tap the floor, quite spontaneously. It was a welcome distraction.
The silence, however, persisted longer than was sufferable. I felt an irrepressible need to fill it.
“Ahem, and those notes I’ve written in the margins are my own thoughts, in a sense they belong to me, but I share them freely. It’s only reasonable I should show my appreciation for the author’s gift by giving something of myself in return for the stimulation he has provoked in me.”
She stared at me blankly. I noticed her ears had returned to a normal shade of pink and her eyes were no longer about to jump out of her skull and attack me.
“Anyway,” I added without engaging my brain quite as swiftly as I should have done, “now that I have added my own unique insights to Bronowski’s original ideas, the next reader will benefit from a depth of knowledge that’s far greater than the sum of its parts. Surely, that’s how learning works.”
Without giving me a second glance she reached for the rubber stamp and brought it crashing down on the book’s title page with professional panache.
© Rod McRiven 2017